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13 'most dangerous' counties for impaired driving listed

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety recently named the state's 13 "most dangerous" counties for impaired driving that will be targeted with extra DWI patrols through September 2011. All 13 counties will dish up extra servings of DWI enforcement on Thanksgiving Eve, November 24.

The Thanksgiving travel period (Wed.-Sun.) is historically one of the deadliest travel periods of the year - 16 deaths in the last three years and six were alcohol-related, and 2,067 were arrested for DWI.

Increased DWI patrols will focus on these 13 counties that had the highest combined total of alcohol-related deaths and serious injuries during 2007-2009: Anoka (22 alcohol-related deaths/51 alcohol-related serious injuries); Carver (13/12); Dakota (20/33); Hennepin (61/144); Itasca (11/15); Olmsted (15/30); Ramsey (19/54); Rice (3/29); St. Louis (26/55); Scott (12/24); Stearns (11/20); Washington (13/23); and Wright (28/16).

These counties accounted for more than half of the state's alcohol-related deaths (254) and half of the state's serious injuries (506) during 2007-2009. The Minnesota State Patrol will partner with county and local law enforcement agencies to conduct increased patrols through September 30, 2011. The enforcement is backed by $2.75 million in federal funds.

Each year in Minnesota, alcohol-related crashes account for more than 140 deaths - one-third of the state's annual total - and 300 serious injuries, costing the state around $250 million.

DPS directs extra enforcement toward the counties with the highest combined number of alcohol-related deaths and serious injuries to have the biggest impact on impaired driving behavior.

"Extra enforcement campaigns have helped the state hit record low alcohol-related death numbers," says Cheri Marti DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "While impaired driving remains a statewide threat, we can best address the brunt of the issue by focusing resources on sustained campaigns in areas that have had the highest numbers of life-ending and life-changing crashes."

In the last five years, 2006-2010, more than 1,320 DWI enforcement efforts in the state's 13 targeted counties resulted in 172,517 traffic stops, generating 11,394 DWI arrests - one arrest for every 15 stops - and 74,347 traffic citations. In all, more than one-half million Minnesotans have a DWI on record, translating to one in seven Minnesota drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites Minnesota as a DWI enforcement model due to successful agency partnerships and through "high-visibility" enforcement efforts. These campaigns employ saturated patrols along a select corridor, electronic signage and officer gear. High-visibility enforcement generates motorist and community awareness of the extra patrols, and as a result, encourages motorists to make safe plans to avoid driving impaired.